Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca (AP Images)

Pas­cal So­ri­ot, lamenter of low pay, faces in­vestor re­volt for be­ing over­com­pen­sat­ed

As­traZeneca CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot once be­moaned his $13 mil­lion an­nu­al salary, call­ing him­self the “low­est-paid CEO in the whole in­dus­try.”

Now, af­ter his new, $18.5 mil­lion pack­age came to light last month, As­traZeneca’s in­vestors are com­plain­ing: They think So­ri­ot is over­paid.

As­traZeneca is fac­ing a share­hold­er re­volt over So­ri­ot’s pay pack­age, Sky News re­ports, with in­vestors warn­ing that they plan to vote against the com­pa­ny’s re­mu­ner­a­tion re­port and pol­i­cy at its an­nu­al meet­ing on April 29. The cen­tral is­sue is the an­nu­al amount put in­to So­ri­ot’s pen­sion. In­vestors have de­mand­ed the British drug­mak­er re­duce it from 30% to the av­er­age pen­sion award for a British work­er. In­stead, they cut it to 20% — still well above the av­er­age.

Al­though $18.5 mil­lion pales by com­par­i­son to some Amer­i­can ex­ec­u­tives, who can peak at over $50 mil­lion per year, Eu­ro­pean in­vestors have tra­di­tion­al­ly tak­en a hard­er stance against what they see as ex­ec­u­tive over­pays. Two oth­er com­pen­sa­tion moves al­so an­gered in­vestors, Sky News re­port­ed: the di­rec­tors’ de­ci­sion to use dis­cre­tion to award So­ri­ot his an­nu­al bonus and their de­ci­sion to bump long-term in­cen­tives from 500% to 550%. The lat­ter points could prove par­tic­u­lar­ly galling for ac­tivist in­vestors dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, as the econ­o­my sput­ters and the ex­ec­u­tives of nu­mer­ous large cor­po­ra­tions take vol­un­tary pay cuts. As­traZeneca has made no such moves.

So­ri­ot has long ar­gued that he is worth more than his 8-dig­it com­pen­sa­tion pack­age, point­ing to an R&D pipeline that was con­sid­ered among the worst in phar­ma when he ar­rived in 2012 and which he has since large­ly turned around, in­clud­ing with the suc­cess of EGFR can­cer med­i­cine Tagris­so last week. Peak sales for the drug are es­ti­mat­ed at $8 bil­lion.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

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Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO (glen photo/Shutterstock)

Japan's Soft­Bank plots bil­lions in biotech in­vest­ments in move that could keep the val­u­a­tion flood ris­ing — re­port

The valuation crazy train in biotech continues to roll into the new year with more than a dozen companies taking a chance on Nasdaq and money flowing in from all sides. Now, a Japanese institutional investor is reportedly weighing an entry into the market in a big way — will it keep the bitcoin-esque flood rising?

Already a part-time investor in biotech, SoftBank could drop billions of dollars into the industry as part of helmsman Masayoshi Son’s plan to spend around $80 billion of the firm’s own assets, according to a report from Bloomberg citing people familiar with the plan.

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S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Biden is look­ing be­yond Wood­cock or Sharf­stein for FDA com­mis­sion­er — re­port

Neither Janet Woodcock nor Joshua Sharfstein is likely to be nominated as the permanent FDA commissioner, Steve Usdin at BioCentury reports.

The White House is looking for alternatives to Woodcock, the acting chief and longtime CDER director, after opposition from several Democratic senators who are calling on others to block her nomination if her name is put forth, according to Usdin. Sharfstein, the former principal deputy FDA commissioner and current Johns Hopkins professor, is out of the running altogether.